MDAH staff bring us this blog post in honor of Eudora Welty’s birthday, April 13, and to recognize National Library Week, April 10-16. 

Many libraries collect yearbooks, and the MDAH library holds hundreds of volumes from schools across the state. In recognition of National Library Week, this series features yearbooks from the MDAH library. The yearbook format showcases sports teams, obsolete fashions and hair styles in photographs and illustrations—some are humorous. Many yearbooks have written pieces such as jokes, stories, class histories, and even a “last will and testament of a senior class.” Students were categorized: prettiest girl, most popular girl, most stylish girl, all-around girl. Notable people can be often found in the pages.

YB/373.762/J12/1922

1922 issue of The Quadruplane, yearbook of Central High School. Call number: YB/373.762/J12/1922

 

This yearbook from 1922 features one of Jackson’s most famous residents. Eudora Welty was born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi. The daughter of Christian Webb Welty and Chestina Andrews Welty, Welty became perhaps the most distinguished graduate of the Jackson Public School system. She graduated from Jackson’s Central High School in 1925.

 

YB/373.762/J12/1922

1922 issue of The Quadruplane, yearbook of Central High School. Call number: YB/373.762/J12/1922

Issues of The Quadruplane are available to patrons at the MDAH library: 1910-1917, 1919-1928. Further issues entitled  Cotton Boll are available: 1929-1931, 1934-1977

For further information regarding Eudora Welty please visit the Eudora Welty House and Garden website.

A Literary Desk

On April 5, 2016, in Artifacts, Museums & Historic Sites, by Timothy
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Jarrett Zeman, MDAH Museum Division cataloger, brings us this post in an ongoing series about his work on the IMLS project to catalog, photograph, and create digital object records for MDAH’s Museum Division artifacts. 

At first glance, Eudora Welty’s bedroom looks just as you’d expect—a large mahogany bed against one wall, a dresser and bookshelves against another, and an electric typewriter atop a small side table.  However, in the east corner, another piece of furniture looks displaced in time: a large desk with the year “1804” hand carved inside a yellow oval.

Plantation Desk

The piece is a reproduction of a nineteenth-century plantation desk that once stood in this room. Welty purchased the original desk at a New Orleans antique market, and used it to store documents.  Plantation desks earned their name thanks to popularity among Southern plantation owners, though they also saw frequent use among attorneys, postmasters, and railroad clerks.

Plantation desks were designed in two sections: a lower piece, resembling a table with two pull-out drawers; and an upper piece, resembling a cabinet, with hinged double doors and a series of cubby holes.

Welty included the desk in a scene from The Optimist’s Daughter, an example of real life finding its way into her fiction.  Laurel Hand, the title character, enters her deceased father’s study and discovers an unusual desk:

It had been made of the cherry trees on the McKelva place a long time ago; on the lid, the numerals 1817 had been set into a not quite perfect oval of different wood, something smooth and yellow as a scrap of satin…

On its pediment stood a lead-mold eagle spreading its wings and clasping the globe; it was about the same breadth as her mother’s spread-out hand.  Laurel touched the doors where they met, and they swung open together.  Within, the cabinet looked like a little wall out of a country post office, which nobody had in years disturbed by calling for their mail.

Welty won the Pulitzer Prize for The Optimist’s Daughter in 1973.

 

Shaun Stalzer, Government Records archivist, brings us this post about his work with the State Auditor’s Papers.

1939 State Capitol Landscape Plan, Series 1429, Record Group 60

1939 State Capitol Landscape Plan, Series 1429, Record Group 60

Spanning the years from 1810 to 1945, the records of the auditor of public accounts are a complex collection of receipts and warrants for state agencies and everyday Mississippians alike. By law, the auditor’s purpose was to “examine, state, settle, and audit all accounts against the state.” The auditor’s reach thus extended to all aspects of society, from land sales/deeds to receipts of the judicial, legislative, and executive branches. Interesting parts of the collection include: militia payment vouchers from the Civil War, monthly reports from state-owned plantations such as Parchman Farm, receipts for slaves executed by the state in the 1850s, and receipts for repairs made to the state capitol over the years. The collection also contains a variety of materials associated with the work of the WPA during the 1930s, including a 1939 hand-drawn beautification plan for the New Capitol. The beautification plan outlines the grounds of the New Capitol with specific locations for trees and shrubberies.

This collection is still being processed and is available to researchers only by written request.

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Jarrett Zeman, MDAH Museum Division cataloger, brings us this post in an ongoing series about his work on the IMLS project to catalog, photograph, and create digital object records for MDAH’s Museum Division artifacts.

When museum workers catalogue objects, assessing damage is of vital importance: how has an object been scratched, dented, stained, and cracked over decades of use, and what can we do to ensure it will be preserved for future generations?  Damage often reveals important events in an object’s life, as in the case of the Complete Works of Charles Dickens, on view in the Boys’ Bedroom of the Eudora Welty House.

Dickens Books (1)

These soot- and mud-stained volumes, with burnt covers and cracked spines, first belonged to Welty’s mother, Chestina.  Chestina’s parents once begged her to get a haircut, as they feared that “long thick hair…would sap a child’s strength.”  Chestina refused until her father offered to purchase the Dickens set.  As Welty later wrote in One Writer’s Beginnings, Chestina “sank like a hedonist into novels…she read Dickens with a spirit like she would have eloped with him.”  Chestina grew so fond of the books that she read them underneath her bed by candlelight.

After her marriage to Christian Welty, the couple’s rental house on North Street in Jackson caught fire.  As Welty recounted, Chestina would not allow her prized possession to burn: “Mama broke loose from all hands and ran back, on crutches too, into the burning house to rescue her set of Dickens which she flung, all twenty-four volumes, from the window before she jumped out after them, all for Daddy to catch.”

Dickens Close-Up (1)

Thanks to Chestina’s determination and daring, Eudora Welty grew up inspired by works like Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickelby, a literary legacy passed from mother to daughter.  Welty wondered if she would ever have the courage to enter a burning house, and save her favorite childhood series, called Our Wonder World.  Uncertain of her own daring, Welty admitted that “the only comfort was to think that I could ask my mother to do it for me.”

What favorite books would you save from a fire?

Jarrett Zeman, MDAH Museum Division cataloger, brings us this post in an ongoing series about his work on the IMLS project to catalog, photograph, and create digital object records for MDAH’s Museum Division artifacts.

When Welty was ready to turn ideas to prose, she sat herself before the typewriter.  Welty preferred using a manual typewriter, like the ones she played with as a child in her father’s office.  However, as she aged, arthritis forced her to go electric.  Welty used this Smith-Corona Coronomatic 8000 to write The Optimist’s Daughter, though often begrudgingly. Its constant humming made her feel it was “waiting on you to do something.”  Welty never used a computer to compose her stories.

Welty used this electric typewriter to compose The Optimist’s Daughter, a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Welty used this electric typewriter to compose The Optimist’s Daughter, a Pulitzer Prize winner.

To edit a day’s work, Welty retreated downstairs and marked pages in blue pen, as seen here. She often used this gray metal copyholder, a common companion to typewriters, when she needed to retype her edited pages.  By lifting the top latch, Welty placed a page into the holder and replaced the latch, which held the paper in place and freed up her hands.

Welty used this metal copyholder to more easily edit drafts.

Welty used this metal copyholder to more easily edit drafts.

When it came time to edit whole chapters, Welty had a unique technique: she physically cut the pages of her manuscripts apart by paragraphs or sentences, rearranged them in a desired order, and pinned the pieces back together.  By using pins instead of staples, she could move the pieces around as much as she liked.  In the dining room, visitors can touch reproductions of these unusual pages.

Example of Welty’s unique editing technique, the “cut-and-pin.”

Example of Welty’s unique editing technique, the “cut-and-pin.”

These artifacts provide a glimpse into Welty’s writing process.  The craft of writing is a much larger and nuanced process, but without these tools of the trade, Leota would never sit in her beauty parlor; Daniel Ponder would never give away his fortune; Tom Harris would never buy dinner for hobos; nor would we know the other rich characters created by Eudora Welty.